Fans of Hacky Sack, large green fields and soccer moms rejoice, and animal rights activist be terrified! Marko's Magic Football has just entered the building, and it promises to kick more than just a metal goal post and injure a goalie's groin! Marko (Marko's Magic Football in Europe) is a mildly entertaining game about a boy, his favorite pasttime, and an evil colonel bent on taking over the city, and it's done in your typical, side-scroller style. There's a reason there aren't too many games like Marko...they don't sell well, and they aren't very good. Not only that, but they usually lack those two special elements games like these need to be playable...tolerable controls and balls-to-the-wall action. As you can tell by my jubilant introduction, Marko has succeeded in at least one category...it's playable. Yay! Hooray! Whoopee! Now, let's just get to it folks. I don't want to write a stunning ten-page thesis about a blonde kid kicking balls all over the place.
Colonel Brown, owner of the Sterling Toys Tower, had this crazy idea that he would make a substance of unique genetic qualities that would transform all lifeforms into mutant sludge monsters. Once he tests the dangerous chemicals with much success on innocent woodland creatures, he starts dumping this substance into the sewers, waterways and throughout the city. Colonel Class-Act Brown has an almost unstoppable plan for getting North Sterlington into his evil clutches...but he made one mistake. His toxic waste happens to give SOCCER BALLS incredible powers, and sir I'm-skipping-school-to-see-what-goes-on-in-the-sewers Marko witnesses the whole thing and does what any self-respecting hero would; He takes the law into his own hands, somehow learns how to manipulate a magic soccer ball/football and plays more hookey going on a grand ole' adventure to stop a goofy looking Harry Houdini.
Forget for a minute that he can hold the toxic ball, let alone use it. That means nothing when faced with this games' visual presentation, which is pretty good I might add. It's not the standard backdrops or the bold and colorful characters that make the game stand out, it's the freakin' animation. The folks over at the "Cartoon Mavericks" gave us their word that the characters movements would jump out at you just like a finely put together cartoon, and they came through. The animation of Marko and the enemies is amazing and professional grade. You don't typically see animation this good on the Sega Genesis outside of some of the Disney-licensed games and a few other titles, it's just that good. Whether you're climbing electrical poles to grab a giant hamburger for no good reason, evading officers gone bad, spoting "Captain Kirk" impersonators, or doing what Marko is supposed to do best, kick around a ball, it all looks fantastic. However, in the case of this game, there is a price; There is noticable slowdown when too many things are on screen, and the game could have used a smidge more diversity in the level design. What is present is well done.
Then there's the whole question of "If a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?". Case in point, give the reader a quick summation of how I feel about the audio. There's numerous criterion in which to base my answer, but I prefer one of two ways: the scientific and sometimes sleep-inducing approach, or the so easy a caveman can do it approach. While I like an intelligent read every now and then, I'm a sucker for the easy way out, so here it is. The audio is...geez, let me just sum it up: It's cartoony. Most people might find it cheesy, but given the theme of the game, it almost absorbs cheesy like a sponge. This is one of the few games I can think of off-hand that could have used more sound effects, like grunts and moans for all the human characters and such. The music doesn't particularly stand out, so I'll say it's fair...because "fair" sounds nicer than mediocre.
Last but not least, what good is a ball without action to take to the wall, or the court, or the field, or the arkanoid block-busting session? Balls without a cause are balls I don't want in my possession my friends, so let's see what Marko can do. In theory, Marko's array of abilities aren't much different from the scant other few games of its kind, but Marko has an uncommon and surprising degree of handle. Marko can kick the ball just a bit by tapping C (by default), kick it farther by holding C for a second, slide it across the ground by pressing C and holding down on the controller, send a fly ball by pressing C and holding up for a second...and this is just under his standard pass. He can balance the ball using his knee and serve it backwards in a fancy display that would make David Beckham proud, bounce the ball on his head, slide across the ground with his ball, and, because this is a magical ball, can summon the ball to him from anywhere out of thin air. Should you get tired of kicking the ball, you can grab a few power-ups like an exploding soccer ball, invincibility, and even a popgun you can use for a limited amount of time...I have no word as of this moment if the soccer moms will carry pickett signs in protest in regards to that last one. Can you say wowee?
Of course, there are some notable flaws in this game. The guys in charge of animation had just a wee bit too much fun making Marko look as good as he can instead of cutting him short in a few key areas for the sake of tighter play control. One instance is when you're running...Marko spins around when changing direction. This won't be a big deal during the first few levels, but will become a nuisance during the more confined levels that require precision. Another nuisance is Marko's attack speed, which should have been a little faster. He attacks fastest when he attacks while walking. Overall, it isn't a big deal. Lastly, the later levels have quite a few cheap segments thrown in there, so they can be a little nerve racking if you aren't the patient type.
Alrighty then...I guess you've just read another addition of "When GS Tackles Games Nobody Really Cares About". I've probably given this article more thought than I should have, but with the bar getting set higher everyday, what the heck is a guy supposed to do? Marko is a pretty fun game with remarko-ble visuals and is a good way to waste an afternoon. If you get bored ahead of time, continue later using one of the games' passwords. "Electronic Gaming Monthly" and "Diehard Game Fan" had good things to say about this game, so you know it isn't all bad. Marko is not a particularly common game, so collectors will smile gleefully with this one in their collection while the average gamer will more or less shrug their shoulders. I hereby decree that this article has biten thine dust. Good day, and until we meet again.
- Written by Bel Cain The Eternal -